At the fifth round of the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship, the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team celebrated its seventh podium position of the season. Factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) finished second in race one at “Donington Park Circuit” in Great Britain. In race two, the Italian crossed the line in fifth place. His teammate and local hero Chaz Davies (GBR) finished eighth and sixth respectively.
While weather conditions were good for the races, qualifying practice was limited the Friday before due to extremely difficult weather conditions. The weekend started with cold rainy weather as well as high winds which dropped air and track temperatures to just above freezing. Consequently, BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team’s factory riders Marco and Chaz opted — like most of the riders — to just do as many laps as necessary and to spend the rest of the day in the garage. In the morning’s free practice, Chaz was one of only five riders who completed a timed lap, setting the fastest time while Marco stayed in the pits. In the afternoon’s first qualifying practice, the weather improved slightly and the track dried. For 30 minutes the action unfolded before it started to rain again. Marco qualified for the provisional first row, finishing third on his BMW S1000RR. Chaz set the eighth fastest time.
Saturday saw the return of spring to middle England. With sunshine and milder temperatures, the team was able to start working properly on setting up the RRs for the races. Marco finished the second qualifying session and the free practice in fourth and second respectively, Chaz was sixth and ninth in these sessions.
In Superpole 1, both riders did their first outing on race tires. Marco’s time allowed him to proceed to Superpole 2 and the Italian just did one more lap on used tires when he went out for the second time. Chaz opted for a second outing on qualifying tires and finished the session in second place. In Superpole 2, the RR riders chose different strategies. Chaz first went out on a used race tire and then changed to his second qualifying tire. With this, he rode the fifth fastest time to progress to Superpole 3. Marco did both of his outings on qualifying tires and finished eighth. This also qualified him for the final and deciding part of the Superpole. There, both of them only had race tires available, with Marco finishing sixth (second row) and Chaz directly behind him in seventh (third row).
“I’m quite satisfied,” said Marco. “Tomorrow I will start from the second row, which is not bad here at Donington. But I need to have a good start in order to keep in contact with the front runners. In Superpole we unfortunately could not use the additional grip that the qualifying tires offer. It was much better with the race tires. With them, I constantly improved and did a very good lap time. I am still looking for some more grip on the rear but we have some ideas how to improve. Tomorrow, we need to find a few more tenths of a second to have a good race pace. Overall, I’m positive for tomorrow. I just hope that we will have good weather.”
Race day was sunny and warmer allowing Marco to start his chase from sixth place on the grid in race one on the seventh of the 23 lap race. He closed the gap to the front, waiting for opportunities and taking them by overtaking his competitors. On lap 17, he had improved to second place but leader Tom Sykes (GBR) had pulled away too far leaving no chance for Marco to catch him, so the Italian crossed the line in second, 2.3 seconds behind Sykes. Chaz had a tough first race from seventh on the grid. In the beginning, he was close behind Marco but the Welshman struggled with grip. He fought numerous battles to keep his position but had to settle with eighth.
In the early stages of race two, both riders kept with the leading group but on lap six, Marco had a near highside. The Italian saved it and kept fifth position but lost a bit of time. In the following laps, Marco and Chaz started to steadily close the gap to the top four riders. In the second half of the race, Marco began his attack for the podium. On lap 16, he overtook Davide Giugliano (ITA) for fourth, then Eugene Laverty (IRL) and was in third. He kept this position until the penultimate lap but then fell back behind Laverty. When trying another attempt to regain the podium position on the final lap, Marco went wide onto the grass and slipped back to fifth. Chaz had quite a lonely second part of the race. He lost contact to the top five and had a big gap to the field behind. So his sixth position was not threatened but he was too far back to be involved in the battles in front of him. The winner of the second race was again Sykes.
“It was a weekend of mixed emotions,” said Marco. “Race one was really nice, but not easy. I had quite a good start, then I began pushing to gain positions. It was difficult to overtake Johnny and Sylvain and it took time. Then, when I had claimed second position, Tom was too far away and I didn’t have enough time to reach him, but I was happy with second place. In race two, my start was not as good but step by step I got closer to the front group. But when I was directly behind Laverty, I started to have some difficulties riding. On the final lap, I tried to overtake him in the chicane, but when entering the corner I could not brake properly so I went wide to avoid a crash. It was a pity as I had hoped to get more points. Now we have to continue working. This week we will go testing and try some new solutions.”
Andrea Buzzoni (General Manager BMW Motorrad WSBK) commented, “We have completed the first third of the season and so far, we can draw a positive summary. The competitiveness in the series has raised a lot and we need to keep working in order to keep our performance level constantly high. In three days, we will start a two day test in Aragón. We have a packed schedule and many solutions to test. We need to keep very focused as the season is still so long.”
In the Riders’ Classification, Marco is fourth with 127 points, directly followed by Chaz who is fifth with 112 points. In the Manufacturers’ classification, BMW lies third with 175 points. From Donington, the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team heads directly to Spain, where it will conduct two days of testing at “Motorland Aragón” this week.